Paulskirocks Gives Me A Handmade Redwood Guitar...will Willie approve?  March 2011

My friend Paul, who sometimes goes by Paulskirocks online, is an electrical contractor who lives in Northern California.  I went to high school with him.  He's one of my best friends, really like a brother to me.

Incredibly, he made me a completely custom redwood guitar, quite a beautiful and generous gift. 

How did this come to be?


Last year, he decided to try his hand at making guitars.  And to make it all the more special, he had some old-growth redwood that had been in his family for decades.  We'll let him pick up the story:

"About 38 years ago, my older brother found a giant redwood on the northern California coast that had been hit by lightning, so he cut a chunk of slab and a chunk of the burl... The burl was cut about 3 inches thick, and has some kind of finish on it."

He used this to make his first guitar.

Paul's first guitar came out quite well.  Really well, in fact.  I played it a few months ago.  It played and sounded fantastic!  He wanted to start in on mine as well as make another guitar for his nephew.  When he went back up to Northern California, I sent up some money for some guitar hardware. 

Although it would be made sort of as a Tele, Paul suggested that he make it in the shape of a Jazzmaster for better balance and comfort.  Sure!!

I'll let him briefly describe the electronics:  "I used a Les Paul style toggle, and push-pull pots, so I can put the two pickups in series when I pull the volume out, and pulling the tone out changes the phase of the neck pickup, getting that quacky strat sound when desired.

One thing I am really digging is how this guitar feels when standing and using a strap.  It balances perfectly, and the slight arm and tummy contours make this baby really comfy."

I loved the guitar.  It has quite a variety of sounds, from more traditional Tele sounds to things quite different, all of them beautiful tones.  The guitar plays really well, too, and looks gorgeous, showcasing the redwood magnificently.  And it's quite unusual, too.  If you Google to try and find guitars made completely of redwood, you won't find too many.  Almost all have redwood tops.

But...the guitar had to pass one brutal final test:  Willie The Three-Legged Cat had to approve.

Willie inspected the guitar.  "Beautiful burl."  He sniffed around.  "Ah, Tru-Oil finish?  Nice." 

He looked at the bridge."Paul chose the Babicz 'Full Contact Hardware' replacement system for "Telecaster" style guitars," Willie meowed. "Good choice.  And black nickel...looks suh-weet.  These bridges offer unmatched stability, increased sustain, dramatically improved fullness and tone along with complete adjustability.  Nice.  Guitar Player Magazine gave these a great review a while back."  Willie began nodding in approval. "And classy...a brass tone block!  Extra sustain.  Nice."

Willie then began sniffing around further.  "These pick-ups...Bryan Gunther makes these, right?  BG Pups.  Well, okay.  Why didn't he call them BG Kitties?  Whatever.  Anyway, Tele neck and bridge pups, vintage wind, I assume?  I do grudgingly hafta admit these sound really good, though, despite the silly puppy name.  Paul has some taste...I like what he did with the push/pull can put the two out pick-ups out of phase, too..."

He looked up past the Warmoth Telecaster® Vintage Modern, a maple neck with Indian rosewood fretboard, and then slowly nodded in approval.  "Paul chose Sperzel 6TL black locking tuners, eh?  I love Uncle Paul, of course, but I'm really down with his choice of hardware too."

Willie stepped back.  "I like this.  I like this a lot.  It's gorgeous, a one-of-a-kind redwood guitar.  Really beautiful.  He let the natural beauty of the redwood speak for itself.  I like what he did by using the redwood burl as a pickguard.  Really nice.  It'd be criminal to cover this with cheap plastic. When's Uncle Paul coming back down here?"

These photos were the first taken with my new Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 prime lens.  I really like the shallow depth of field and how fast it is.  Some of these, including the photos of Willie, were hand-held in low light, while for the others, I used a Joby Gorillapod tripod while lying on the floor.




Ken's photos of Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as photos of Peru, Burma, India, Morocco, China, Thailand, Ghana, Ecuador, and elsewhere, have appeared in many books, magazines, websites, and galleries.  Visit the Ken Lee Photography Website. Some of Ken's select photos may be purchased through his Imagekind Store.

Buy Ken's art at

Paulskirocks Gives Me A Handmade Redwood Guitar...will Willie approve? March 2011

Los Angeles and Miscellaneous Photos Page

Eleven Shadows Travel Page
Contact photographer/musician Ken Lee



eleven shadows eleven shadows